For over 70 years, former Tule Lake resisters have been stigmatized for their difficult decisions of protest during World War II and have been negatively labeled as those “No- Nos” by the Japanese American community. It is time that the JACL finally admits that former Tule Lake resisters had the courage and the right to protest the injustice of America’s concentration camps.
Nearly two decades ago, the JACL finally, officially apologized to the Heart Mountain and all other draft resisters for their principled stand, but to this day, an apology to Tule Lake resisters has been its own No, No.
Past JACL leaders, members and ex-GIs long maintained animosity toward former Tule Lake resisters, but now a new generation of JACL leaders and members predominate. An official JACL apology is needed, admitting Tule Lake resisters had a right to protest the incarceration and were unfairly stigmatized all these years. This JACL apology should happen soon, before all incarcerated at Tule Lake pass away.
After the war, people asked, “What camp were you in?” I never hesitated to say Poston and Tule Lake, but I was always angered by their even muted knowing responses. The Japanese American community has been brainwashed by the JACL and by the commonly used “No-Nos” slur, which implied wrongdoing.
They do not understand that Tule Lake resisters were put in difficult positions and were trapped into protesting the injustice of incarceration. They were punished by the government, many suffered significantly, and in addition have been long stigmatized by their own community.
The JACL, with their super-patriotism position during and soon after the war, were in strong opposition to 12,000 Tule Lake inmates. They had urged their segregation from others in nine camps, would not help ACLU attorney Wayne Collins oppose deportation of over 5,000 renunciants to Japan, and would not support his heroic efforts to regain their citizenship.
Now, ironically, JACL strongly supports minority communities in their resistance and protest against injustices. What about the Tule Lake resisters and their protests against a huge injustice?
Writer Martha Nakagawa wrote an extensive three-part article in The Rafu Shimpo about the Tule Lake Pilgrimage held this past July with over 400 participants. She noted that both Gary Mayeda, then JACL national president, and David Inouye, JACL executive director, attended the pilgrimage.
Maeda was asked about a JACL apology to former Tule Lake inmates. His answer: “That might be a good idea.”
Inouye, in a July/August Pacific Citizen article, said, “Pilgrimages are vitally important to our community in healing the deep and persevering wounds of incarceration …. especially true of Tule Lake, where the scars of injustices inflicted by our government were compounded by the ostracism many experienced from others in the Japanese American community.”
Although thoughtful and sympathetic, words are quickly forgotten. Now is finally the time for action towards an official JACL apology to all former Tule Lake inmates.
Yukio Kawaratani is a long-time JACL member and former Tule Lake inmate. The Rafu Shimpo’s management and staff continually strive to maintain high editorial standards for professionalism as well as accurate and balanced news coverage. The inclusion of a particular piece, including columns and op-ed submissions by contributing writers in print and/or digitally, does not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the owners, management, individual staff members, and editors. The Rafu Shimpo welcomes responses to any article published in print or digitally. Responses may be sent to author directly or emailed to [email protected]